Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, sweet friends! I hope you have a lovely weekend!

I'll be taking a few days off to spend time enjoying the holidays, so I'll see you all in about a week! :)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

thrifty thursday :: the deals are heating up

We live in a home built in 1895- which means we pretty much have zero insulation anywhere. The upside: we live in Texas, so the winters here are mild in comparison to much of the US. The downside: when it’s cold {or hot!} outside, it’s just as cold {or hot!} inside!

Now I’m a total weenie when it comes to the cold, so when it’s less than 55 outside you can find me snuggled up in my chair beside my new best friend:

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It was a Target surplus item that I bought brand new at Goodwill for $20!

They originally were asking $30, but the manager reduced it down to $20 for me, since it was missing a piece of one of the back legs {it’s in our fireplace, so you can’t even tell!}. I’d been looking for a pretty electric heater just like it for our fireplace and found they cost anywhere from $90 to $150 new! This one is the closest to it I could find at Target for $104:

Got to love Goodwill! We scored a cute heater, saved $80, and we all get to stay a little warmer this winter! Now that’s hot! {heheh. I couldn’t resist!}. ;)

What thrifty deals have you scored lately? I’d love to hear!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

immanuel.

It’s such a crazy thing- God Himself came down to live with us here.

I can’t understand it even a tiny bit, but I’m so thankful for it.

Immanuel came as a ransom for us.

He left Heaven to dwell among us- among evil people.

Sometimes the thought crosses my mind- what if God told our family to go where we knew we would be martyred? What if He sent us to a place so vile that we would be killed immediately if we were found out? How hard would it be for us to obey His command?

But that’s exactly what Jesus had to do- He knew He would face a horrible death- and far worse than just that- full separation from His Father for that time. He was totally forsaken by God. Oh, I can’t even comprehend it. My heart aches just trying to picture it. I can’t even begin to imagine what He felt.

He came down. To be a human. To feel pain as we did. To die, to be forsaken so that we could live.

Words just don’t do it justice.

Jesus.

Immanuel, God with us.

Our Savior.

 

And then I imagine Mary. What would it be like to be told this thing would happen to you? To see your belly growing when you’ve never been with a man? Did she feel heartache at the looks and rumors that must’ve been swirling among her friends? Did she worry about what her cousin would say when she found out?

How did she feel when she walked in to see Elizabeth? Would she have to tell her what happened? Was she thinking of ways to explain her swelling, opening her mouth to start with hello, when Elizabeth interrupted and spoke the words,

“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

And how did Mary feel at that moment? I can just imagine this sudden rush of relief, emotions coming all at once as they embraced with tears flowing and the words just pouring out with praise as Mary said,

    “My soul magnifies the Lord,
        and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
    for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
        For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
    for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
        and holy is his name.
    And his mercy is for those who fear him
        from generation to generation.
    He has shown strength with his arm;
        he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
    he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
        and exalted those of humble estate;
    he has filled the hungry with good things,
        and the rich he has sent away empty.
    He has helped his servant Israel,
        in remembrance of his mercy,
    as he spoke to our fathers,
        to Abraham and to his offspring forever.” (Luke 1:45-55 ESV)

Oh praise the God, who brings salvation to His people! This loving God who takes regular women and gives them a heart of obedience in the face of scandal and trials. The One who gives sinful humans like us a new heart to say, “ The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”

All because of Jesus. His obedience to the cross brings new life to our hearts- changing who we are from the inside to reflect His glory on the outside. He came here- a tiny infant- and changed the whole world.

The same baby the shepherds came to worship in a stable came to bring salvation to all mankind. And the very same Immanuel will come back once again. Oh, the very thought of that day brings joy and hope as we look for His return!

As Simeon, filled by the Holy Spirit with faith, longed to see the Messiah with his eyes- in the same way we longingly await the day when Christ returns for His bride.

What a glorious day that will be- and as we wait, may we have obedience and joy and praise like Mary did. And even better yet- like Jesus did. Oh, may the day we see Him again be one of great joy as He says, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

Oh, praise Him- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit! He is GOOD!

Merry Christmas, my sweet friends. It is a very merry one, indeed.

Monday, December 19, 2011

so vintage market {part 2}

Ready for more of the So Vintage Market story? I shared a few pictures before, but I have to tell you the rest of the story! :)

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I had never hosted an event like this before {unless you count garage sales!}. It was my first antique show! I love funky, unique vintage things and I wanted to pass them along at an affordable price to others too, so this summer I had the idea and ran it by a few friends that had either shopped or sold in the field. They gave it the thumbs up as a good one, and the husband gave me his approval, so I started working toward it- buying and refinishing projects just for the market.

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It wasn’t until a couple of months later when we decided to give half of the profits to Parental Care Ministries that I started to get really excited about the whole thing! It actually made it way more fun than just doing it for us!

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My husband was a rock star during the two weeks before the market. He painted lots of things for me, set up the bank account, a register, and even a debit card machine. He even helped me with cleaning, which was huge. He is my hero.

And I would’ve been tagging and pricing and recording items until the wee hours of the morning the night before the market if it weren’t for Abbie! She came over for hours the night before to help! She even subbed my fitness class so I could run the market too! What an awesome friend!

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Recognize that cute little girlie with the longest, prettiest hair I’ve ever seen on a one-year-old? :)

I asked you guys for your prayers the week before the market- and I have to tell you- it was the most joyful, stress-less event I’ve ever done. It was amazing! God was so good to us!! Thank you for praying! I had so many sweet people willing to help, like Alison and Lindsay from church, and my sis-in-law Cayse who brought me Diet Dr. Pepper!

The first day of the market, I got to meet my sweet blogging friend Jennifer! She was as sweet in person as she is on her blog! Such a beautiful lady, inside and out! I was so excited when she said she might be able to make it! Now we are real-life friends too! :D So cool!

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And I got to meet my new friend Margo! She has a very cool antiquing blog, Margo’s Junkin’ Journal. She is so, so creative- I was so excited to meet her! I love her spindle tree and her DIY projects are all so cool and original! You should check them out!

Oh, and I got to see my other sweet bloggy friend, Amanda again! And her husband! We met in Hobby Lobby randomly the first time and recognized each other almost immediately! And we were just blogging friends- we didn’t even know we were practically neighbors!

Amanda and David are so amazing- they’ve recently taken three older boys into their home- I am just blown away by their heart for children! Going from a family of two to five in one day- how cool is that?

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My vision for the market was a to have place that my friends {old and new} could come and hang out, visit and drink coffee while they shopped. And that’s what happened. I couldn’t have been more thrilled! Here’s my precious friend Morgan who always has a smile on her face! She’s seriously one of the most joyful people I know! {she was in the kitchen knitting a hat to go toward PCM donations!}. Love her!

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Speaking of PCM,  thanks to some very generous donors and 50% of the market’s profit, the market raised a total of $1648 for orphans in Uganda! I was so blown away! I really didn’t expect that at all! So, so exciting! And another very neat thing- we got to spread the word about what Parental Care Ministries is doing to lots of people who’d never heard of it. Praise God!

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The market was such a great experience- I’m so blessed to have such wonderful friends and family that came to help, shop and visit, and even donated to PCM.

I loved every minute of it- and Saturday night I slept like a baby!

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Oh, and Ava did too. :)

Happy Monday, friends! I hope you have a wonderful Christmas week!

Friday, December 16, 2011

sweet christmas treats {food on friday}

I cannot believe we only have a few days until Christmas! It really feels like we just got done with the hottest summer in Texas!

Our vintage market ended two weeks ago, so I’m finally getting to slow down a little! It’s been wonderful to take a breath and enjoy the kids and doing crafts and I’ve even started crocheting again {I started with a loom and somehow it went very, very wrong…so back to crocheting it was for me!}. I intended to make a blanket before Christmas, but I think it will be a potholder instead. Ahem.

We put up the Christmas tree the last weekend in November to get ready for the sale. I let the kids decorate it this year- we turned on the Christmas music and ate caramel popcorn while we set it all up in the living room. 

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They loved every minute of it {okay, mommy did too!}, and I thought they did a great job! The ornaments were a *little* heavy on the bottom, about the three foot mark ;), but I thought it was kind of cute so I didn’t move too many of them! My littlest ones love to crawl under the tree to sit on the heater vents. It gets bumped and knocked into frequently, so ever since I’ve had my first toddler, I’ve learned to love a less than perfect tree. :)

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We’ve been making some yummy treats together too. I made this sugar cookie recipe this week and it turned out perfectly, even with my egg-beaters substitution!

I gave each of them a hunk of dough and let them go after it. We normally use cookie cutters, but this time they had fun making their own shapes with the dough. And I let them pour on sprinkles too {thankfully they were the just cheap dollar store sprinkles!}. They had a blast! They’ve been trying to hand out the three dozen of them to friends and neighbors walking down the street.  :)

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And the minute I saw this recipe for homemade Nestle Crunch bars I knew I had to make them!

I tried twice- and mine never turned out like Lynn’s- but I think it might have had something to do with the fact that I only had semi-sweet chocolate. I followed the microwave recipe, then tried to make them on the stove, and they just never looked as pretty as hers did. It really didn’t matter though, because they tasted ridiculously good. I consider it mostly a success! :P

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I really love to bake. And with all the parties and dinners this time of year, I get to do a lot of it! It’s worth an extra workout or two, that’s for sure! It’s such a treat!

I’ve really enjoyed being in the kitchen with the kids, reading by our little flaming heater stove, doing crafts, and taking a deep breath now and then. This week has been one of those that is good for a momma’s heart. It’s been very sweet. :)

I hope you have a chance to breathe and enjoy your weekend as well, my friends!

Oh, and I’m linking up today with Abbie’s tree party and The Lovely Cupboard’s holiday recipe party! So much fun to fellowship and meet other bloggers! You should check them out!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

thrifty on thursday :: quick and easy lunch pizzas

I’m so, so thankful for you guys and your sweet and encouraging comments on Tuesday’s post! I can’t tell you how blessed I feel to have the community of sisters in Christ that we do here on the web! I am just so blown away by the Holy Spirit working in our hearts, giving the unity and love and encouragement that He does to His people. Ahhh!! :D I wish I could hug all of your necks! I love you guys!! It’s just so, so, cool. :D

My general idea for Thursdays here is to blog about something thrifty- usually it will be about thrifting itself or a great deal I found, something that helps us to be thrifty with our money and time here at our house, or something crazy I’ve found on the web that I think you guys will love too! Sound okay? :)

Today’s topic: our version of kid’s deli pizza!
my idea of quick lunchtime pizzas….if I had a live-in chef anyway…
via pinterest

I think the thing that surprised me the most about having little ones was how much they eat! They are 8, 6, 4, and 2 and they can pretty much all outdo me in the eating department! I can make them so.much.food and they are still hungry. When we eat cereal for breakfast, the kids alone can easily go through a box every two days {and they aren’t even the fun kid cereals!}.

And then pizza! Even at the Walmart price of $5-6, I couldn’t afford to buy them frozen pizza if I wanted to- they’d need about three of them to get full! Homemade is our favorite pizza and the most filling by far, but that’s usually reserved for special dinners or family nights, so pizza for lunch is pretty rare at our house.

I needed to make a quick lunch for the kids the other day {they were hungry –again- go figure!}. I had hot dog buns at the end of their lifespan, so I pulled them out, along with my pizza sauce and mozzarella cheese. {by the way, Contadina is the best store-bought pizza sauce I’ve ever tried! It’s very good!}.

I squeezed the pizza sauce on the buns, topped them with cheese, and that was it. So easy.


I set the oven to 450 to let them bake for a few minutes, and ended up with deli-style kids pizzas {you know- the ones that cost $4 that come with a small pouch of cookies? Yes, we’ve bought those too. And it was painful! :P}. The cost: around $1.25 for 5 pizzas.


The kids loved the “homemade” version, and what do you know- they were full at the end of lunch! I saved lots of money by not buying frozen pizzas, and hey, they were much easier to make than seven sandwiches! :D

What do you like to do for quick lunches for the kids? I’d love to hear your ideas!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

He’s changing Christmas this year…

image via pinterest

I love, love, love the holiday season. The family get-togethers, the presents, the traditions, the food. So many of my favorite memories have been tied to those things. But for some reason, Christmas is different for me this year.

I can’t put my finger on it, but I was walking around Target last weekend, and I was nearly in tears. There were so many beautiful items to make you and your home and life lovely, and all of the sudden, I was overwhelmed with the feeling that it all seemed so ridiculous and excessive. And Target has always been one of my very favorite stores.

But $5 paper rose ball ornaments, $55 white bedskirts, 24 different types of coffee makers, entire aisles of hair accessories? Suddenly my stomach was hurting. How many times have I participated in and enjoyed this indulgence? How many times have I bought into the lie that I “needed” all of this stuff? Too many to count.

I’m so stinking guilty, it makes me feel sick.

I don’t understand, God- what am I doing? Why do I buy hundreds {maybe thousands!} of dollars worth of junk every year for myself? What is wrong with me? How can you stand to see me do this? Oh, please forgive me! Keep me from doing it again, because I know I will if I’m left on my own.

Babies are starving, and I’m trying to figure out what presents to buy for my children who already have more than enough books, toys and clothes.  I’m buying my 8th cardigan sweater and people have no Bible in their own language.

What is wrong with this picture?

I’m walking down the aisles of Target, asking God how we are supposed to live here and do this Christmas thing when people are dying from no clean water, having never heard about Jesus. Where do I go from here? I’ve never even been on a mission trip, and somehow I’m feeling culture shock. God, what are you doing?

Either my eyes are more open this year, or He’s working on lots of people I know in the same way. One friend I have doesn’t do Christmas presents with adults- they only give three presents to their little ones. Another friend posted this on her Facebook wall:

definenecessity

My heart was broken reading how radical Christmas could be from Ann Voskamp.

And my husband came home two weeks ago and told me we should buy these chickens for Christmas presents this year.

God is changing our family’s view of Christmas and holidays. It’s kind of scary and strange to think about not enjoying our traditions like we always have. What will happen? How do we interact with people who don’t feel the same way?

I don’t really know just yet.

We enjoy giving gifts to our family and friends- so we will still do that this year. I’m trying not to just buy things, but to really put even more meaning and love behind the gifts that we give. To make more instead of buy more. To enjoy the company of others and show them love instead of just focusing on gifts or ourselves.

The Target trip really convicted me of my senseless spending- do I really need pretty disposable plates and matching napkins that say NOEL for a Christmas get-together? Shouldn’t we just eat off of plain ones this year? My standards for beauty and perfection need to change. Why do I care what my tree looks like when people across the world need food? Ugghh, how ugly has my heart been?! What else am I doing now that He will show me next week?

I feel like God’s really leading me to get rid of the excess stuff here, to decorate and make things using little money or what I already have on hand, and to be more conscious of what I buy for myself and the house.  We like to buy used- but it’s very easy to use the savings to buy more things instead of giving it away or using it to pay off our home debt.

I’m not sure if Rob and I will exchange gifts- really, we both have far more than we need. I have no idea what Christmas will look like this year- but it feels different already.

I’ve been praying since I turned 29 that God will radically change my heart and visibly change my life before I turn 30 next October.  I guess I really didn’t expect Him to start by changing my perspective of one of my very favorite things in this life- Christmas.

It makes sense though- He started radically changing the world with a birth at this time 2000 years ago. Should it really surprise me He started changing our hearts at Christmas too?

I am so in awe of the God who works in us- He’s opening the eyes of my husband in the same way He’s opening mine. I have no clue what He has in store for us next. We both have this weird desire to give up all these silly things we have- to let go of our traditions and comforts here. It doesn’t logically make sense- we have everything we’ve really ever wanted- and to give it all up seems crazy.

We don’t know what will happen in the future, but at least for the moment it seems very clear that He really wants us to give up our ideas and fantasies about Christmas and to open our homes to others and share our feasts and parties when we normally wouldn’t. To show love to our friends and family and strangers instead of loving an idea of what Christmas should look like.

I can’t wait to see what happens- will you guys pray that He continues to work on and in our hearts and that Christmas will be continue to be changed among His people?

He is such an amazing- amazing- God. How awesome that He can radically change us- that we have His Holy Spirit because He sent His Son to be born among men so many years ago. He is the only reason for this season. I am so excited to see what He will do with His people! Let’s pray that He will be our focus this Christmas. :)

Monday, December 12, 2011

10-minute book page ornament




If you’re looking for a quick craft to make this holiday season, these book page ornaments are super fun and easy too!

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There have been tons of variations of the paper ball ornament on the internet- and I’ve seen them with music pages and felt too- but did you realize this one has been around for years? A sweet lady from church told me how to make these at the market last weekend, and how her mom and grandmother made them back when they didn’t have money to spend on ornaments after the wars. I love crafts with a history! :D

My favorite part about crafting these ornaments is that you can make them in 10 minutes or less-and your older kids could do them as a Christmas project, or even as a gift for others.

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here are the supplies you’ll need:

:: old book ::
:: scissors, needle, thread ::
:: cup ::
:: ribbon ::

here’s what you do:

1. trace lots of circles on your book page
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2. cut them out {stack a few to cut out at a time}.
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3. fold each circle in half at least twice.
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4. thread each folded circle through the top corner.
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{here’s what it will look like}
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5. thread the ends of your ribbon piece.
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6. tie the ends of threads together close to the ornament, unfold each circle, and you’re done!
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You don’t even have to use the ribbon- you can tie the thread off long enough to hang it right on the tree. The ball on the left was made with just a few circles, so you could do less if you prefer that look.
Either way, handmade ornaments in 10 minutes or less= my kind of Christmas craft!
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I’m linking up at House of Hepworths as part of the blogging around the Christmas tree fun!

Friday, December 09, 2011

share your feast :: a reader’s story

It's time to talk a little food on Friday! What do you say? :)

The holidays are in full swing, and I have to admit, I've still got this little challenge on my mind:

Even though Thanksgiving is over, we still have plenty of time to share our feasts with others! Can I say, I've loved hearing about your feast sharing! Oh, it's so exciting to see you guys opening up your homes to those who don't have a place! God is so good!!!

Last week I got this note from a sweet reader, Maria, and I asked her if I could share it with you all here. I'm so, so excited about this, and I think you will be too! God is working- all the time!

Hi Mandy!

I am a new reader...couple weeks or so....to your blog and so enjoy your updates. My husband and I work on staff with a young church in the heart of Baltimore city where our congregation is almost entirely composed of 20 somethings. Anyway, a few of us who were staying in the area and wouldn't be visiting family decided to share Thanksgiving together. I had just seen your Share Your Feast post a few days before and so wanted to make a point of doing that sometime this season.

In God's so beautiful way, He brought the perfect candidate across our paths 2 Sundays ago. Andre is 44, homeless, and very kind. He visited our church and quickly made friends among some of our members (including my husband). When he called out of the blue just to say hello and that he was praying for my husband, I realized he needed to share our feast with us. John and I talked about it later in the day and he called Andre back and set it up.

We picked him at the shelter where he's been living (his spot guaranteed each night due to a serious infection he was recovering from) and crammed in our other riders (3 college students from our church) with me in the back. During dinner he shared his story with us and we just listened as this gentle man talked of being homeless half his life, imprisoned much of that time, and on drugs of some kind since he was 17. Through it all God has continually been redeeming his brokenness and making him new and he can pinpoint moments where he realized so clearly how God intervened in his life and worked things out for his good. He is eager to get his life back on track and eager to see God bring total healing but his fight is going to be SO very hard.

All that said, we around the table who had never been homeless, never been high, and never been imprisoned sat basking in the glory of a mighty God who loves the least of these and teaches us to do the same. Such a needed reminder that He is good and loving and KNOWS the details of our lives and provides for the things we need. In a city where there is so much need and loneliness and darkness, it was such a blessing to witness God at work - in our own hearts and in Andre's.

He was back at church Sunday and I am hopeful that the relationships we're building with him will be a part of his recovery and rehabilitation. Thank you so much for the wonderful idea! I hope we'll be able to do something like this again soon. Being a church full of young adults we get together and "feast" a lot so I feel like there will be plenty of opportunity! :)

___________________________________________

AHHHH!!! Are you as in awe of God as I am right now? What an amazing God we serve- He orchestrates every part of our lives and such cool things happen when we do what He asks! I just have chill bumps at how the Holy Spirit works! Wow!

Thank you so much for sharing, Maria! What an encouraging testimony for us!

Okay, so how about you- are you ready to share your feast? Our Father can make it happen! :D

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

silver star flower wreath tutorial

Do you have a Christmas wreath? If not, you can make this one for less than $5! It’s a sparkly holiday version of my webster’s flower wreath.

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Here’s what you start with:
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:: straw wreath or strong paper plate ::
:: cake circle or round cardboard ::
:: shiny wrapping paper ::
:: glue gun ::
:: optional embellishment- ornament or small mirror ::
:: scrap paper for template ::
:: optional hanging ribbon ::
Start with your leaf template- fold a scrap piece of paper in half and draw this basic shape.
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Take your pretty wrapping paper and double it over so you can cut out two leaves at a time. You may want to watch a movie or listen to something, because depending on the size of your wreath you’ll need a bunch of these! {mine was 12 inches in diameter}. It also helps if your sister-in-law comes over and doesn’t mind cutting leaves while you glue! Thanks, Cayse!! ;)
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Glue the cardboard circle on to your wreath form. This is where you could really cut corners and use a Chinet or Dixie plate as your wreath base. No one will know and you could save $2.50. Hey!
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Turn it over and start gluing your paper leaves on. You will have to fold the bottom in like a little wrinkle/pleat to keep it from rolling back. Overlap each one just a bit.
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Do a couple of rows and turn that baby over and start going around the top, doing the same thing.
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Keep going!
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You can make a green circle for the inside, use an ornament, or my favorite, a compact mirror you have in your purse:
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Glue it on in the center, add a hanging ribbon if you like and…

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You’ve got a sparkly, thrifty Christmas wreath!

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I do believe it’s my new favorite craft! :D

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